What Does It Mean to Have Eternal Life?

It’s Monday Grace!

Christian teachers use the term “eternal life” with little definition, as though everyone knows what it means. And, of course, most people just think it means to live forever. But then we die.

Some people have been taught to believe that eternal life begins after they die. That makes some sense. It fits with a yet-to-be-determined result of judgment. You live your life, then you die. Then you are judged. Then you learn whether you rest in Heaven or burn in Hell. Yikes! And yet, that’s what so many have been taught.

The message of the gospel is quite different—and wonderful.

The life the Scriptures teach is life the way we are supposed to live it. Life as it was given to us—before we died. Remember that the Scriptures teach that we died when sin entered the world. That’s just what God told Adam would happen. At this point, we usually make a distinction between spiritual life and physical life. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help much since no one explains what spiritual life is.

So, let me give it a shot.

When God created humans, they were meant to live forever. Something was radically different about them, something that connected them to Him. When they sinned, they lost their “life connection” to God. They continued to breath and walk around, but now they suffered pain and death. That was new. Pain and death were the result of losing their “life connection” to the Lord. Frustration, betrayal, hatred, sadness, and all the other negative emotions came from that loss. In fact, and I don’t have time to go into this, all of them are expressions of that loss.

At that point, God considered them to have died. All humanity after them was born into death, without the life connection to God. That means that separation from God was the natural and normal state of humanity. The Scripture blames it all on sin, both the first sin and all following sin. People are dead apart from Jesus.

But what exactly is that life that our first parents experienced in the Garden? It may actually be beyond human description, but it is the real life, the life that Jesus lived. It has substance, wonder, and power. It is beyond time and physical limitation. That life connection with God is the flow of His life in us. Eternal life.

When Jesus exchanged His life for our death, when He died on the cross so that we could receive His life in us, He became our life. In Him was life, and He is in us. The life that flows in believers today is the life of Jesus. Eternal life.

So, believers receive eternal life the moment they believe. Eternal life is not about existing forever. It is about experiencing, owning, the life God meant for us to have. This is why we speak of restoration, even though what is restored is something we, as individuals, never had. This is why we speak of being found, even though we never knew ourselves to be lost. It was possible for us to continue to exist in this world apart from God and not realize we were dead.

But every believer knows that something changed when they came to the Lord. I realize that there are people who grew up knowing and trusting Jesus and cannot remember a conversion experience. That’s okay and valid. In fact, that’s exactly what I wanted for my children and grandchildren. But the majority of us today know a before and after, and there is something about the after that is profoundly different. Even if we have never experienced the wonder, our hearts know the wonder is there.

And, yes, because Jesus is God and God is eternal, the life in us is also eternal. We will never lose this life. It is something other than physical life and carries us past physical death to something new and good. What we will experience in Heaven will be something like what our first parents experienced in the Garden, but will never end.

Perhaps this opens the door to a host of other questions. That’s fine. The answer for today is that eternal life is that “life connection” to God that is restored in Jesus and will never end. After our physical life here ends, we will be free to experience a life more full and wonderful than we have ever imagined. Eternal life is found in the grace of Jesus Christ.

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